By Alexi Venneri, Co-Founder & CEO, Digital Air Strike
Consumers increasingly rely on social media, including online review sites, to select the dealership they want to do business with. In fact, Digital Air Strike’s recent Automotive Social Media Trends Study shows 75% of car buyers say using the internet, including social media and review sites, were MOST helpful when researching car dealers -surpassing all other mediums. Additionally, 81% of car buyers and 83% of service customers said online review sites helped in their dealership selection process.
Working with thousands of dealers, we know a social following and positive online reputation aren’t established overnight. So when a dealership is bought or sold these are valuable assets that need to be considered and included. There is definitely value in a 5-star online reputation and room for negotiation when it’s just a 1-star.
If you are on the buy side of an acquisition, make sure all social network and review site log-ins and passwords are included in the contract and the transaction, with the ability to change them before the prior owner’s networks are shut down. We work with dealers every day who don’t have or can’t find the appropriate login and passwords for their Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and many other sites important to their social media and online reputation. When they tried to reset the passwords, the reset message was sent to old email addresses of a prior owner on an account that had been discontinued.
We recently helped the new owners of a dealership in Indiana reset logins and passwords for all of their social and review sites because they didn’t get this information in the sale. It took our experienced team about a month to get this information updated- – which, because we have contacts at all the sites, is actually very fast compared to the time it would take a dealership on their own to get the information. In that time, bad reviews came in and couldn’t be responded to and the dealership’s social sites went stale.
As insurance, buyers should also request that the previous owners not shut down any email addresses until they get the logins to these important accounts reset. Buyers should also ask for all information about Google Analytics and the logins that go with that account as well.
Before the sale is even final, the purchaser should request that a social media policy be put in place for current employees. This will help ensure that any negative comments about a potential sale are kept offline. It’s an important practice that all businesses have a social media policy that provides guidelines of what can and can’t be shared online – even on an employee’s personal pages. This practice is even more important during the sale of a business.
Additionally, if the business you’re buying has a really poor social and online reputation, you may just want to start from scratch. That includes changing both the name and the physical address of your dealership. Most dealerships are big enough to allow for a change from, for example, 100 E. Main Street to 102 E. Main Street. Google doesn’t care about new ownership, it pays attention to the business address. So if you need to leave bad reviews behind, move a little.
Sometimes no reviews look worse than bad ones, so if a buyer is starting from scratch implement a plan to get new reviews. The best way to do this is to survey sales and service customers nightly and make it easy for happy customers to share their positive feedback publicly. We’ve found that this practice can garner hundreds of good reviews in just a few months.
This is also a time to get legitimate likers and followers on your social sites. You shouldn’t buy them, but you can use targeted social ads to reach consumers that are interested in your business, the vehicles you sell and even the charities you support. You should also use social advertising to build a new database of prospects and to let local consumers know that the dealership management has changed. Social advertising is a low cost yet highly effective way to target prospects including those that are geo-targeted when driving by your store.
Lastly, most dealers today spend time and money on their social media and online reputation and shouldn’t think of these things as “throwaways”. Don’t forget they have value when negotiating a buy/sell.
If you’d like a free online social media and reputation analysis on a store you are considering buying or have recently purchased, you can request a complimentary report here: http://digitalairstrike.com/resources/
Alexi Venneri co-founded Digital Air Strike, the award-winning digital response and social media technology company that helps thousands of dealerships gain more customers and keep those they’ve already earned. She can be reached at 480-429-5660 or via email at Alexi@DigitalAirStrike.com